On a recent sojourn in ‘Tuscany, Italy a wonderful book found me: Papale Papale by Florentine chef Fabio Picchi…”Thoughts and recipes to nourish your soul.”
As I wandered around the Marcato Centrale, or Mercato di San Lorenzo in Florence, three floors of foodie heaven from sublime local Tuscan produce to a food hall where you can actually devour what heaven has sent Tuscany; I was drawn up a set of stairs and happened upon a book shop. As I scanned the shelves, my eyes fell upon a black book cover sporting a bronze key and metal fork, it was screaming to be picked up. As I turned the pages of this culinary bible, my eyes galloped through poem after poem and verse after verse of stories of years gone by and recipes of old that in the blink of an eye could be forgotten from generation to generation. They were the sorts of recipes my grandmother would cook, day in day out – old fashioned rustic cooking – food for the soul. The book enticingly titled Papale Papale by Fabio Picchi.
Who wouldn’t be enticed and entranced by the promise of ‘Midnight spaghetti‘ on pg 222. In Picchi’s words “Without doubt, a dish of spaghetti at midnight is one of the things that allows us to walk the path of happiness. It can be consumed as a joyous act of meditative wisdom, to end the old day and begin the new one.”
I clearly had in my hands a Florentine treasure and it was coming home with me, to inspire my Crohn’s friendly kitchen after a week’s retreat in Tuscany where the locals had an average age of 90 and were fighting fit on a diet rich in olive oil, pasta and local (hangover free ) red wine. A gentle reminder that my menu, despite restricted can still be enjoyed, even if food is my medicine it doesn’t have to be bland and boring. Papale papale also provides a wonderful example of how to serve up food alongside mental sustenance – poems, stories and recipes being the perfect three course meal. Have you noticed how sometimes the same food will agree with you one day and not on another. Spare a thought for your state of mind, the stress you may have experienced or emotions that may cloud your taste buds. Our relationship with our bodies and minds is complex and not to be overlooked. The more we nurture our vessels and feed our souls the better our lives will be.
Picchi’s book reminded me of Laura Esquivel’s “Like Water for Chocolate” which many of you will have enjoyed in the 90s, both in print and on screen. A Mexican adventure and love affair based around the kitchen and the land with recipes for happiness and love potions aplenty.
Both books are an assault on the senses, from the emotions that flow from the poetry in motion to the tantalising tantric promise for your taste buds, as you imagine the pleasure of making and tasting the recipes that interweave the stories.
Unfortunately, Picchi’s restaurant was closed when I was in Florence, I will be returning to eat the delights of his kitchen.
What have these foodie books got to do with Crohns or good old-fashioned gut health?
Quite a lot actually. We often hear the phrase ‘you are what you eat’ and that is certainly true if you have any food challenges/intolerances /allergies.
Ask yourself ‘When was the last time that you enjoyed a meal without having to think about the affect it might have on your gut or your waistline’? I’m not suggesting these books are the magic pill or remedy but they may serve to remind you to enjoy food and to choose good old fashioned ingredients, close to the land, basic but full of taste.
What these two books have in common is an abundance of ‘sensory pleasure/feeling’ and I believe that pleasure is a wonderful antidote to pain – through reading about food or preparing nourishing recipes and enjoying eating them.
Nourishment is more than just food – it’s an all body experience
The pleasure you enjoy doesn’t have to be ‘foodie’ it could be soaking up the rays of the sun (they say Vitamin D is anti inflammatory and good for us all). The next time the sun is out, turn your cheek to the sun, close your eyes and soak up the glow. Nourish your soul through the rays of the sun.
Or, it could be a good old fashioned soaking up the ‘Breath‘ that we too often take for granted. Listening to mindfulness guru, Steven Webb this morning, I was reminded that it’s only when the breath doesn’t come to us so easily that we actually think about the importance of it. If we’ve got a cold, we are very aware of the breath, or the lack thereof. Breathing is the single most important task our bodies perform at all times during our lives and with the breath we can help or hinder our bodies. Take a moment to sit in stillness and just breathe, take a deep slow, mindful delicious breath. Enjoy, and repeat. Nourish your soul through your breath.
Back to food, my one true love, I would encourage you to rethink your relationship with food. Conjure up ways to re-engage with it and really take time in your life to enjoy the food you eat. The Tuscans know how to do this, I think they are born to enjoy the local food, it’s in their blood, a genetic disposition. From the aged balsamic vinegars, through the herb infused polentas and rainbow coloured pastas to cherry honey (yes, the bees really do pollinate cherries in Tuscany) inject some pleasure into your culinary heaven. Nourish your soul through food.
Like the watermelon in the picture, really get to know your food, caress it, inject some passion into it’s preparation and thought into the end result. Use quality ingredients, prepare them with keen attention, season with reckless abandon and always remember the secret ingredient to any meal ‘a spoonful of love’ to nourish your soul.